“I tell my students, you do not enter the future – you create the future. The future is achieved through hard work.” ~ Jaime Escalante
Category Archives: Mr. Adair’s Classroom
“Where do we begin Mr. Adair?”
“At the beginning, ” he said. And throughout the year that I was under his tutelage – he would continue to challenge me to, “Never stop searching for truth.” In this endeavor, we provide – once again – the writings of many writers – many of whom I have known for years – providing historical lessons of import and understanding – little of which is addressed in our “classrooms” today.
In 1933, a group on businessmen conspired to unseat President Roosevelt and overthrow the government. One man stopped them…
Still from Universal newsreel footage of Smedley Butler describing his 1934 congressional committee testimony (Wikimedia Commons)
Toward the climax of director and screenwriter David O. Russell’s new historical drama Amsterdam (2022), Dr. Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale) narrates a line that is not only central to the film’s plot and themes, but also one of the most telling quotes in recent American film history. Burt and his friends have begun to uncover the shadowy and sinister plan at the film’s center, a plan by powerful moneyed figures to overthrow the president of the United States and replace him with an unelected dictator. And Burt asks both himself and the audience, in the voiceover narration to which the film returns frequently, “What’s more un-American than a dictatorship built by American business?” Continue reading →
The Baltimore Washington Monument. Emblazoned on the sides are important dates in the Revolutionary War, including December 23, 1783. At the top, Washington resigns his commission.
In Baltimore, Maryland stands one of the first monuments erected to the memory of George Washington. The 180-foot monument was finished in 1829, before the Washington Monument in D.C. was even begun. The impressive stone pillar is topped with a large statue of the General. Unlike most other statues of George Washington, the statue in Baltimore does not depict the Revolutionary War hero on horseback with his sword drawn, or as the First President of the United States. Instead it shows Washington, in his military uniform, simply extending a hand holding a piece of paper. Despite the simplicity of the scene, it is representative of one of the most important moments in the founding of the American nation: Washington resigning his military commission.
On November 1, 1783, Washington learned that the Treaty of Paris had been signed and the Revolutionary War was over. Continue reading →
Publius Rutilius Rufus (158 B.C.-78 B.C.) attempted to reform Rome’s corrupt tax system, and soon found himself accused of corruption and extortion himself.
Banished for debasing the currency from his home city in what is now north-central Turkey, Diogenes of Sinope chose to beg in the streets of Corinth and Athens, live in a clay jar, and eschew wealth of any kind. The story is often told that he walked the streets with a lantern, looking in vain for an honest man. He often confronted people with disparaging hand gestures, including one that involved the middle finger. He is considered a founder of the ancient Greek school of philosophy known as Cynicism. In his 80s, he died in the same year as Alexander the Great (323 B.C.). Continue reading →
The days of New York City’s Tammany Hall and the Windy City’s “Chicago Machine” may be technically over, but that doesn’t mean Democrats have given up trying to rig and steal elections in a neverending power grab that would make Mayor Daley blush. Not by a long shot. In fact, you can bet the farm that virtually any cockamamie proposal put out there by anyone with a D beside their name is specifically designed to do one thing and one thing alone – get votes.
Oh, I know they like to pretend they’re all about “virtue” and “values” and helping the “disenfranchised,” the downtrodden, and the disaffected, but these modern day Bolsheviks have “more power” scrubbed into their DNA, and it defines EVERYTHING they do. Continue reading →
Andrew Jackson stares down the national bank and wins.
“Jackson Slaying the Many-Headed Monster,” 1828. Private collection, Peter Newark American Pictures / Bridgeman Art Library
On July l0, 1832, President Andrew Jackson sent a message to the United States Senate. He returned unsigned, with his objections, a bill that extended the charter of the Second Bank of the United States, due to expire in 1836, for another fifteen years. As Jackson drily noted, the bill was presented to him on the Fourth of July, a day freighted with portent.
Today Jackson’s Bank Veto and the political conflagration known as the “Bank War” that it touched off seem arcane and nearly incomprehensible. While misdeeds among the rich and powerful still garner headlines and incite congressional inquiries, the core instruments of our economic system-the network of banks capped by the Federal Reserve; the corporate form of business enterprise; the very dollars in our wallets, issued and guaranteed by the federal government – are utterly taken for granted. That these could have been the subject of controversy, that anyone could seriously contemplate organizing American capitalism differently, seems nearly unthinkable. Andrew Jackson is recalled today, when recalled at all, for other things, primarily as the architect of forced Indian removal. His face on the $20 bill is a mystery to many, an outrage to some, and, to the knowing, a curious irony. Continue reading →
Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Commonwealth Club Speech” (September 23, 1932)
In this speech, delivered in the depths of the Great Depression, presidential candidate Franklin Roosevelt sought to explain the dramatic ideological differences between himself and the Republican President Herbert Hoover, ‘the Great Engineer.’
In this speech Roosevelt attempts to distinguish the role of government as addressing public policy goals, in serving the public good, rather than simply administering some predetermined economic principles handed down by ‘the market’ and a class of professional economists and financiers.
The speech and the candidate were not well received by the media and the movers and the shakers of the day, the very serious and very comfortable people largely untouched by the economic hardship of the collapse of the stock bubble in 1929, who derided it as ‘too Socialist.’ Continue reading →
Learning more about the first Ukrainian American and his contributions to a foundational American story helps remind us that America has been profoundly transnational at every stage of its history.
The first settlers arriving in Jamestown (National Park Service)
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine has unfolded over the last few weeks, most Americans have certainly been united in their support for the Ukrainian people and condemnation of Russia’s increasingly brutal attacks and tactics. But one area where there has been significantly less consensus is the question of whether and how the U.S. and its allies should intervene in the conflict. Among the arguments for the U.S. maintaining its distance from this unfolding European war is that this conflict is ultimately unrelated to the United States and that it concerns two foreign nations from whom we would do well to remain isolated.
There are various ways to challenge such isolationist arguments, including highlighting the historic moments when isolationism not only failed to end unfolding world wars, but also led directly to belated and more fraught U.S. involvement in those conflicts.
But there are also stories of early Americans who found their way to the continent from across the globe; these stories contradict any perspective on the U.S. as isolated from seemingly foreign nations like Ukraine. Learning more about the first Ukrainian American and his contributions to a foundational American story helps remind us that America has been profoundly transnational at every stage of its history. Continue reading →
The story of the Roanoke Colony is one of the most enduring mysteries in American history. In the late 16th century, a group of English settlers established a colony on Roanoke Island, located off the coast of present-day North Carolina. However, when a supply ship returned to the colony in 1590, all its inhabitants had vanished without a trace. This puzzling event has captivated historians and researchers for centuries, with various theories and speculations attempting to unravel the fate of the lost Roanoke Colony. Continue reading →
On Nov. 19, 1863, at the dedication of the military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, President Abraham Lincoln spoke these words:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. Continue reading →
Because of the US Supreme Court, the 14th Amendment’s greatest impact is not the protection of citizens’ rights, though it is cited for that purpose. It is and has been the granting of human rights to corporations – an exercise not founded in the Constitution itself nor in the Amendment itself, nor in any other part of the Constitution. It was an extension of power to corporations that the Court, without any explicit foundation, allowed to be promulgated in a summary of its 1886 decision in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railway by the Court’s reporter. Continue reading →
Gold speculators in New York. (image from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, May 7, 1964)
It was May, 1864. Grant was closing in on Lee in Virginia. New Yorkers were growing hopeful that the long, terrible ordeal of the Civil War would soon be over.
But their hopes were dashed when on Wednesday, May 18 they read in two of their morning papers, the New York World and the Journal of Commerce, that President Lincoln had issued a proclamation ordering the conscription of an additional 400,000 men into the Union army on account of “the situation in Virginia, the disaster at Red River, the delay at Charleston, and the general state of the country.” Continue reading →
James Monroe (c. 1819) by Samuel Morse (1791-1872)
Whatever his failings as an imaginative thinker, President James Monroe’s own convictions were rooted deeply in the spirit and the letter of the U.S. Constitution. As he entered the White House in March 1817, he had little (well, less) use for James Madison’s newfound love of nationalism. While he entered the presidency too late to stop the Second Bank of the United States from forming, he could and did make sure that the government’s role in creating public works was limited. If the people truly wanted the government building more canals and roads, he thought, they would need to get an amendment to the Constitution passed, as the Constitution of 1787 did not allow for such things, he believed. And, though a Virginian and in sympathy with many of the Old Republican beliefs of John Randolph of Roanoke and John Taylor of Caroline, he was not one of them, and he feared the creation of any parties or factions. Continue reading →